Bradford Betz – Indonesian authorities in the country's ultra-conservative Aceh province publicly flogged six people Tuesday for breaking Islamic law – despite a government ban on mass gatherings amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report.
Safriadi, the official responsible enforcing Sharia punishments in the area, insisted that authorities were abiding by social distancing rules, AFP reported.
"To comply with current conditions, we're trying to cut unnecessary procedures like the usual opening speech," Safriadi said. He qualified though that the coronavirus would not inhibit "justice" from being served.
"We just carried out the flogging directly to make it simpler. Whipping will still go on, but we're limiting the number of people involved," Safriadi said.
Images of the alleged offenders showed them without protective face masks and in close contact with each other.
Aceh, located in the far west of Indonesia, is the only region to impose Islamic law. The public whippings, normally viewed by hundreds of spectators, only attracted about a dozen onlookers, AFP reported.
Of the six participants, four men were flogged 40 times each for drinking alcohol, while an unmarried couple allegedly caught together in a hotel room were also given two dozen lashes from a rattan cane.
Other crimes for which an offender can be whipped included gambling, adultery, drinking alcohol, and having pre-marital sex.